In contrast to a swarm-control split where you need to know the whereabouts of your queen, a walkaway split can be made without having to find the queen. The steps for setting up a walkaway split are easy:[list icon=”sign-in”]
- Examine the brood nest of the hive you want to split and look for eggs. Split the brood nest between the new hive and the old hive, making sure each hive has many eggs, both capped and uncapped brood, and enough nurse bees to cover the entire brood nest.
- As in any split, arrange the frames so the brood nest is in the center flanked by pollen and then honey. If there is insufficient honey, add a sugar syrup feeder.
- Close up the hives and walk away.
The queenless portion will soon begin to raise a queen of their own from very young larvae. Since eggs will be hatching over the next three days, they will have many new larvae to choose from and several days to get it all done. The queenright portion of the split will continue on as before.
The downside of this type of split is that it takes a long time to establish. Rather than raising a queen from a maturing queen cell, the workers are raising her from a newly hatched larva. You have to wait an additional week before you start looking for fresh eggs. So instead of checking for eggs after three weeks, you should start checking after four weeks.
This type of split can be done before you see any swarm cells. However, if you start too early in the season the split could fail for the following reasons:[list icon=”sign-in”]
- Nighttime temperatures may be too cold for a tiny split. Remember, you have a relatively small number of adult bees and a large number of brood cells. Nighttime temperatures must be fairly moderate to avoid chilled brood.
- Remember that the virgin queen will need drones with which to mate. Don’t try raising queens in any type of split until drones are plentiful.
If you see swarm cells in any of your hives you usually don’t have to worry about the temperature or the drones because the bees don’t start building swarm cells until conditions are right for swarming. If you are unsure of your timing, let the bees guide you.
It says to close up the hive and walk away. For how long till I can open the hive up? I did a split and know one of the hives does not have a queen.
You should be able to find your queen after about three weeks. At the end of four weeks you should see eggs. If you don’t see any eggs after four or five weeks, the split probably failed to produce a fertile queen. Remember, though, bad weather can prevent the queen from mating. So if you have a spate of rain and wind, you may want to wait a little longer before giving up.
Rusty, what do you consider, “Nighttime temperatures may be too cold for a tiny split. Remember, you have a relatively small number of adult bees and a large number of brood cells. Nighttime temperatures must be fairly moderate to avoid chilled brood.”
It depends on the size of the split. Really tiny, and I think you’d want nighttime temperatures at 60 F or above. A little bigger and 50s might be okay. It depends on a lot of things including humidity, wind, rain. It also depends on the length of time they are cold. An hour or two is different than 12 or 14 hours. I can’t really give you a specific number.
In the spring or early part of summer, if a person has a 2x deep super, brood chamber and eggs, larva, and capped brood, and nurse bees are distributed equally, can’t that person simply split the supers and place one on its own bottom board…take it about five miles away for a week or two so the foragers don’t return to their original home and let the colony with no queen raise a new one or have a purchased queen introduced? That way the new hive will still have some foragers to continue bringing in some pollen and nectar supplies while the nurse bees do their thing. Am I over simplifying this or missing something?
I simplify things even more than that. I take the brood box with the queen, plop it down on its own bottom board about six inches from the original hive, and walk away. That’s it. Works like a charm.
Sure the foragers go back to the original hive, but the box with the queen will have new brood in three weeks. Meanwhile, some of the nurses become foragers, but it doesn’t need a lot of foragers right away because the number of larvae to feed decreases for those three weeks.
The other box needs to raise a queen, but it has enough nurses and foragers to get through.
Seriously, we make splits a lot more complicated than they have to be, put people like to have “formulas” or “recipes” to follow, so I’ve provided a bunch.
For myself, I prefer the KISS method.
I totally agree with the KISS method…I use to tell folks that when I was in the Air Force. That “walk away” method you describe is well named! BTW, I’m just getting back into beekeeping after a 30-year hiatus due to my military stint.
I hail from Pennsylvania where I first began keeping bees at the ripe ole age of 13 and before entering the Air Force was up to 50 hives, now I’m retired from the USAF and living in South Carolina. Only thing I had to worry about in the early 70’s in PA was Nosema, AFB, wax moth and the occasional skunk or bear damage. No wonder why the poor honeybee is struggling to survive today with the same old problems we were use to, and now with the variety of mites and this dang SHB which South Carolina seems to be a haven for! I don’t know how a commercial beekeeper can deal with it like a hobbyist can. Anyway, you have a terrific site and I’m glad I stumbled upon it. Tons of information and love reading about your experiences in the beeyard. Take Care and thanks again!
Thanks for the compliment and thanks for your years of service. I appreciate what you guys do for us.
I performed an artificial swarm yesterday as explained in this video. Short version: I moved every frame with swarm cells to a new location and kept the queen (with no swarm cells) in the original hive and location. Finding a slimmed down, unmarked queen wasn’t easy, but I do appreciate the simplicity of the move, at least theoretically. I’ll be incredibly pleased if it actually fools the bees into thinking they’ve swarmed.
Does the “artificial swarm” technique make sense to you?
Not really. I like to move the old queen to a new location because that replicates what happens in an actual swarm. I find it easy to do, uncomplicated, not fussy, and it works all the time. But, hey, if that system works for you, go for it.
I did it for the first time two days ago. I’ll let you know if it works.
I don’t think I ever got back to you, but I performed (is that the right word for it?) two artificial swarms last year, more or less following the directions in the video I linked to, and they worked.
In fact, I just performed (because I’m performance artist) a walk away split with a colony started from a swarm cell last year. Most of my colonies took a hard hit this past winter and have been slow to build up this spring — except for the colonies started from swarm cells.
I have a bee colony in a wine vessel. They swarm moved in there about 3 weeks ago. How to get them into a normal brood chamber in a regular beehive?
I am thinking about making a hole in the top of the vessel and the bottom of the new hive and place the box on top of the vessel.
When I find the queen and brood in the box I’d think I should place a queen excluder between the two. Do you have better suggestions?
What do you mean by “vessel?” Do you mean a wooden barrel? Or something else? Can you e-mail a photo? rusty[at]honeybeesuite[dot]com.
It is a old wooden wine barrel.
That should work, as long as she moves up in a reasonable amount of time. If she waits too long, all the winter resources will be in the barrel. But short of taking the barrel apart and moving the comb yourself, I don’t know of a better idea.
I will have to return the barrel to the owner. One hole is allowed.
I’ll keep you posted.
What do you think? Should I keep the original opening open or close it? The worker bees will be searching for the regular opening, but when they fail …?
New workers are expected to fly out in another six weeks; that’s a long time waiting …
I’m doing a split without queen cells. Should I leave the split settle a day before introducing a purchased queen, and does there need to be brood, eggs, & larvae? Can I just use comb foundation? I’m hoping the new mated queen will start laying once she is accepted.
Sure, it’s probably a good idea for them to settle and be queenless overnight before introducing a new queen; they will be much more receptive. With a purchased queen, you don’t need brood to get started. However, open brood in the hive keeps the bees from absconding during the period before the queen is introduced. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to put a frame of it in there, but it is not necessary. Yes, you can use drawn comb or foundation.
That is good news
I love your experience, I can do that with comfort knowing that is the right choice.
Thank you for getting back to me right away!
and you have never been wrong on giving advise on splitting hives.
Its been a few years beekeeping for me and I’ve tried practically all the splits, it’s been a little stressing but they all have worked very well.
The best one I prefer is the overnight, so simple and fool proof.
I have a package that lost its queen right after installation, creating another laying worker problem (second year running…puke) I combined my laying worker hive with a queen right hive that over wintered awesomely (mainly thanks to honeybeesuite.com by the way 😉 and I plan to let them mingle together for a week or two then do a walk away split. Since I live in one of the coldest parts of Idaho I am thinking that if I wait for the newly split hive to raise its own queen they wont have the stores to make it through the winter so I’m going to buy one.
My question for you is – When I do my split should I leave the entrance open or should I close them in there overnight before introducing my purchased queen? Also, the other hive is booming so I was planning to move two or three frames of brood to give the split a better start. Is the pheromone from the brood going to lower the chances that the split will accept the queen?
I seem to have a knack for creating laying worker hives and am a little worried about spending the money for a queen (since I have rotten luck…or maybe Godzilla-like beekeeping skills) so any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for all you do!
I don’t think closing them up for one night will make any difference. The foragers will return home in any case, so you will be left with just nurses and brood. The nurses are more accepting of a new queen than the foragers, so it should be an easy transition. No, the brood from your larger hive will not cause a problem, in fact, it’s a good way to give your split an extra boost.
I also live in the Pacific NW and have 9 hives (two overwintered and 7 new nucs installed in late April). One of my overwintered hives is turning into a real boomer with a deep and (now) four mediums. The queen is a great layer and well behaved. I’d like to reproduce this hive with a walk away split and let them re-queen but it is coming up on June 1st…what is the latest you would do this kind of a split? I could also do a cut-down as we are just ahead of the main flow starting here too…suggestions?
You can do just about anything as long as there is nectar coming in. I’ve done walkaways in July with no problem. Go ahead a try it.
Good afternoon Rusty
I live in California and I recently did a walk away split on March 8. I have two brood boxes and two supers and this is my 3rd year (first time doing a brood inspection). I am not sure if I screwed up but upon inspection I noticed queen cells were already open and tons of larvae, I think they were drones everywhere. I split the hive with every other frame into the same amount of deeps.
I did a quick inspection just open the top and notice plenty of bees in the new hive and the original hive was normal. Did I screw up?
No, I don’t think you screwed up. When you say the queen cells were already open, do you mean that queens already hatched? Did you move any of the unhatched cells into the new box? Do you know where your old queen is? If there are no queen cells, the bees can raise a queen from the very young larvae, but it would speed things up if you could move an unhatched queen cell into the box without a queen. Do you copy? If not, let me know.
I live on Vancouver Island and had a hive that was extremely strong, so I performed a walkaway split.
I had examined it last week and there were swarm cells, but no eggs laid in them. I peformed the walkaway split last weekend.
I had a look in the queenless hive tonight, and sure enough, the bees are raising a whole ton of emergency queen cells – my question is, should I leave all the queen cells be, or shall I destroy all of them except one? I am very intent on doing what I can to prevent my bees from swarming.
Thanks so much for your informative website, it is a really helpful resource.
Suppose you destroy all but one queen and that one is defective, or never emerges, or is weak? Or maybe she goes on a mating flight and gets eaten by a bird. Then you have nothing. I leave them in place, or move them to a different hive, or put them in a nuc, or set up a queen castle, or give them away, but I never destroy queen cells. Too valuable.
Thank you, and yes I hear what you are saying. I guess what I am asking is, that if I leave more than one queen cell in the hive, I am risking them swarming multiple times – is that correct?
The first and/or strongest queen will destroy the other virgin queens. If the colony wants to swarm again, it will raise another batch of queen cells. All in all, monitoring queen cells is not a very effective way to control swarming because by the time they build them, the decision to swarm has already been made.
Hello, very glad and excited to have stumbled up on this site. I am a newbee to this all, however I managed to get my hands on a couple hives. The first I caught in my backyard back in April was a small to mid-medium swarm with queen etc. I cut it from the tree and borrowed an old box from a friend. No frames in it currently and I just placed a piece of ply on the top for the cover. They are doing fine. I checked a couple times and realized they had comb hanging from the plyboard etc. They have been in the same spot in the box since then this year.
I did a bit of research, like the beekeeping idea, and luckily made a few connections and got 3 official hives with frames and a few empty boxes. These are all 10-frame one deep hive. No honey supers, just single boxes, my suit, hive tool, and smoker. Wow now great. I’ve never been in these boxes which I have gotten a few days ago. But this morning being so excited I visit every morning. I notice a couple dead bee the larger ones and a few walking around looking like they are about to die. I picked up a few, did some search and realized mite infestation Varroa. I compared the bees found to Google results. I am living in the Caribbean, Jamaica to be exact. And would like to know the best method for treating this. I’ve read about a couple including the one I prefer most because of no chemical which is powder sugar dusting. Can you give your take sir rusty.
Also for the couple of empty boxes I have the backyard space etc so I’m looking to get at least 5 more hives from the current 4 that I have. Is this a good time to do this and can the mite spread from box to box. Or hive to hive. The one I caught I roughly 80ft away from the 3 I got last week. The one I caught I was thinking of using as my observation and breeding since they were originally caught from the wild and seems to be doing perfect in a large box and may have a better yield and resistance what do you think . for this box I was thinking to do a top bar type hive but with the top boards the length of a regular frame incasr needed to use in a regular hive as well as the depth of the regular frame. I think this may be of my choice base on what I’ve read thus far correct me if wrong. Next do I need to add a super on top of all the other 3 boxes with excluder or just allow the queen to access and build into brood chamber as well in the event I need to expand my colony. Finally if splitting do you recommend breeding a Queen and what is the simpliest method . I am so sorry for posting all these question at once especially in the wrong place. But I have been searching for so many other answers and you get them across easiest.. Again I have never looked in these boxes since I got then just have a plan and high hopes
Thank you for your letter. You are right, your question is too long and involved for me to answer: it would require hours and hours of writing and all of these questions are already answered here on the site. Briefly, powdered sugar will work on the Varroa as long as you coat all your frames twice a week for most of the year. Yes, mites will spread from box to box and hive to hive. A queen excluder is completely optional. If you are mostly interested in raising bees, and not so interested in honey, you don’t need one. The simplest method of raising a queen is letting the bees do it themselves.
Rusty, I have a vigorous hive that is showing signs of swarming. They are bearding quite lumpily at the entrance – and I haven’t done a brood chamber inspection in over a month. I’m in Rhode Island. Is it possible to do a walk away split with a strong hive in June if it seems ready to swarm?
I don’t see why not. But if you can move the old queen to the split (which more closely simulates an actual swarm) I think you have a better chance of averting a secondary or tertiary swarm that could happen very soon after the split.
Thank you for the response I appreciate it. And my apologies Madam rusty…Could you direct me to what my brood comb should look like. A healthy one. I took a peak on Sunday and notice that the combs of two. Of the hives were fairly dark and somewhat incomplete is that good or bad. Also I read that powder sugar can be made from regular granulated sugar by means of whipping in a blender I think. Is this ok. And for the back yard hive I notice those combs are much whiter what do u suppose is the difference
Brood is usually in the center of the comb with an arc of pollen surrounding it and honey stored above that. The brood cells should be solid, with very few empties scattered around inside. I will look for a photo.
Brood comb gets dark with age. The darkness comes from layers of pupal cocoons and debris, but the bees seem to prefer that way. The bees polish and smooth the surfaces before they re-use it.
Yes, I believe you can grind regular sugar in a blender to make powdered sugar. I have never tried it, so I don’t know how long it takes.
Comb is very white when it is new and darkens with age. I believe there is some genetic variability as well. Some seem to make whiter comb than others. It certainly isn’t a problem one way or the other.
Ok, thank you for the response. I will be taking a look inside sometime today and may just attempt a split of the box I caught. Do you suppose since that box does not have frames I could just find brood and the eggs as well as the pollen etc on the necessary comb, cut it out, and strap with elastic band between 3 or so frame, shake some bees in and, that’s fine?
That should work.
How late in the year can you make a walk away split? I’m new to this but I have a hive I took out of a house in the spring and it’s two hive body’s deep and a super half full of honey already. I’m afraid it getting to big, both boxes are plum full of bees. I think it needs split but it’s almost July.
You can split now, but the limiting factor is whether they will have enough stores by fall. I don’t know where you are, but in most places in North America, the amount of available nectar drastically drops off in the summer. If they have more than enough stores, you could divide it between the two hives. Watch out for robbers, though, especially in the split.
Hello madam Rusty. Hope you and the family are in good health. Well today marks the one week point since I had split my hive which I had caught back in April. Looks great thus far. What I did was to put the new box less than 3 feet away from the old box. I placed the queen in the new box and cut 5 frames of honey, larvae, etc from the old top box and used elastic bands to secure them in each frame. I never moved the old box at all. Now they both look ok. When I took a peek earlier today, did not disturb them much. But I feel they are ok. How can I upload a picture of What I have?
It’s July 6. I live in Kentucky and have 2 very large plots of wildflowers in full bloom. I would like to make a split, got 4 full frames of capped brood eggs and larvae. They also have 3 supers of honey. Is it possible to make a split now? It stays warm till oct and nov.
Yes. It is still possible to make splits now. You will probably have to feed them before winter.
I’ve read and received great information from your blog so I’m hoping you can answer maybe a stupid question. So as I understand it, you don’t want to dump a normal size new swarm into a 10 frame langstroth hive since they don’t need all that space yet. Why is it so bad though? If it’s not cold outside and they shouldn’t have any problem keeping the hive at optimal temp, what is the drawback of just giving them the extra space to save the time of transplanting them later in the season into the larger give? I have a hive that absconded during the winter this year and it has the comb already drawn and some honey as well. I was thinking of just dumping a new swarm in there since it should give them quite a leg up. Can you tell me what is wrong with this idea?
I don’t know what’s wrong with the idea. I always put swarms in a standard deep box, and sometimes I give them two deep boxes. Never had a problem with it.
If you make a split and put in a purchased queen you need open larvae in the hive. This is so when you hang the queen cage in the hive you do so next to the frame of open brood. The nurse bees will feed the caged queen and WANT to eat the candy to get her out. Otherwise, with no open brood they can ignore her in the cage and she will die. I raise Qs and have had this happen to customers who hang the cage in an hive with no brood!
A split to make a natural Q cell should have one made within one week-ten days of the split and a mated Q within 26 days of split assuming they had eggs to make a Q with. No cell in ten days means they do not have the right age brood left in the hive to make one. Buy one or merge them back or add another frame of eggs.
Packages are routinely started with a caged queen and absolutely no brood, open or otherwise. A split with a caged queen is no different. I have done dozens of shook swarms and Taranov splits all with caged queens and no brood. No problem.
Greetings. If I make a walk-away split (with a purchased queen in queenless deep brood box) do I then treat this like I started (nuc) where I feed untill both brood deeps on both hives are drawn ?
If you use a purchased queen, it’s not really a walkaway split because you know where your queen is. But yes, you can feed both parts until the deeps are drawn, but you don’t have to, especially once the nectar flow begins. It’s a management decision you make by looking at the strength of each colony and deciding what they need.
I am new to beekeeping. I bought two nuns last spring and had to join my one weaker hive to my stronger one in the fall. I have so many questions! 1. Can I make a split and move both the new hive and old hive to a new location at the same time? 2. Do I close both hives entrances when I do move them and split them and if so, for how long are they closed? 3. Do I feed the new hive with sugar water while it is closed? Thank you so much for any advise and I love your site as it is the most informative and easy to understand site for a beginner that I have found.
Do I need to close the new box that I split and then open them up in 3 days? Or are they free to leave the hive and reorient on their own?
You don’t need to close them up. Just remember, any foragers will go back to their original hive. When the nurse bees from the split become foragers, they will orient to the new location.
Approximately 10 days ago I made a walk-away split. One of my over-wintered hives was very populated and on the day I made the split a very large portion of the bees rushed out of the hive and spent about 15 min flying near the hive at about 35 ft and below. They were buzzing extremely loudly. After roughly 15 min they all headed back in causing bearding as they were trying to get in past the entry reducer. I live in a city and therefore I was quite concerned they were fixing to storm which is why I thought the split was needed.
In opening the hive there were no queen cells noted so I’m guessing that they were not really going to swarm. But since it was a very strong hive I continued with the split. I’m an inexperienced beekeeper so I’m not sure I actually followed any exact method correctly. I think it ended up being sort of a hybrid of various ways of doing a split.
At 7 days after the split due to my own learning and curiosity I chose to open the hive to see if I could identify a queen cell in the hive that was queen less. Upon opening the hive I did not see a queen cell in the top box. I then took the top box off to look in the lower box. I did not remove most of the frames just tried to look down in the gaps. I still did not identify a queen cell. However I noticed that by taking off the top box it caused what might have been a queen cell connected to the bottom of the frame to tear and expose a pupa. There were a couple of similar cells that had been disrupted causing the pupa damage.
So now I am stewing about whether I ruined their attempt to make a queen. I’m also doubting whether I divided the frames up well enough to make sure they had plenty of eggs and larva when I made the split. I’m not sure if the cells damaged in my inspection were queen. I realize I didn’t do a thorough search for a queen cell and that I am a novice and might not know what I’m looking for.
Do I just let them be for another couple of weeks? Do I put a frame of open brood in the hive? The hive is roaring and is still very strong. I don’t want a laying worker. Please help.
I very much enjoy your insights. Thanks in advance.
Libby, how is your spit going?
Hi Rusty, I am a new beekeeper (a little less than a year now) and I split my very booming hive at the end of May (5/21) I knew the queen was in the split and I left lots of eggs and 5 queen cells in the original so they could make a new queen. On 6/12 they had not made a new queen yet and I took one frame of eggs from the other hive to give them another chance (6/12). Today (6/19) there was still no sign of queen cells being created so I switched another frame of eggs. How many times do I do this before I give up and purchase a queen for them?
Bianca located in Miami with two hives and a nuc on the roof 😉
You mentioned not seeing queen cells, but have you looked for eggs? Assuming you’ve had good weather, I think you should have started seeing eggs by now, but really bad weather could keep a virgin from mating for an extended period. I would check for eggs carefully. Without any eggs, I would consider recombining the colonies, or buying a mated queen. In the meantime, keep adding brood so you don’t get laying workers.
I’m guessing that since you are not seeing new queen cells, one of the virgins from the first group of queen cells emerged and is hanging around.
Thanks for the reply. Since the split on 5/21 I have not seen any eggs.The weather has been hot with lots of Thunderstorms. Hopefully she’s hanging around and I’ll see eggs soon.
Thank you so much,
One of the problems with extended bad weather is the queen loses attractiveness and vitality if she is forced to wait too long before mating. You still may want to introduce a mated queen, just be really careful that you don’t already have one. A crystal ball would certainly come in handy.
I installed a nuc late June in MN. They filled both deeps with comb and brood. So I added a medium and extruder. They filled the medium 70% with honey so I added a second medium. I fear the two deeps are too full of brood and could swarm. It is late August now. Should I add a third deep, or keep the two deeps over winter, or split hive? How many deeps and mediums is ideas to over winter?
I assume you meant excluder? I have an image of extruded bees that is kinda gross.
Anyway, it is unlikely (although not impossible) for your bees to swarm at this last date. The large majority of swarming occurs during swarm season, a six- to eight-week window in April, May, and June. Later swarms are unlikely to make it through the winter, so they don’t happen very often.
In much of North America the drones are evicted in August. No drones means no mating, so again, colonies are not generally eager to swarm. If drones are already evicted in your area, splitting will most likely require a purchased mated queen.
Remember, too, that colony size decreases toward winter. I suspect your colonies are getting smaller, not larger, right now, although they may seem larger if the bees are hot and bearding.
You can overwinter in two or three brood boxes, as long as the bees have about 90-100 pounds of honey. You might want to check what locals say about the amount of honey needed in your area, but I think that is reasonable for MN. The number of boxes is not nearly as important as the amount of honey.
If it were me, I would check to see how much honey is in the brood boxes and then leave on enough honey-filled mediums to come to the weight you need. Also, before you add a third brood box, make sure the lower one is full. Sometimes the bees merely move up and leave the lower one empty. If that is the case, you can switch them around.
I have enjoyed reading all the posts. I think many people fear the hive getting too large/big. I had a “normal” hive I split this spring, as early as I could (after the dandelions bloom for 2 weeks) in Michigan. I made 5 splits of 6 frames each. I started with 3 deeps. I “normally” try to have 3 deeps or 2 deeps and a medium to over winter. I agree it can seem like there are lots of bees. In August or later here in Michigan I would not try for any splits as I feel it is too late, too gather enough stores for winter. If you have only 2 deeps and a medium or similar, add another medium or 2 and wait till spring. You really want as much of the summer as possible to let the split grow in size. BTW the 5 of the splits are now 2 deeps and 2 mediums, 4 boxes, and the old queen is back to 3 deeps for next spring. My one bit of advice is let them grow to biggie size and split in the spring. I used the emergency queen method. Basically remove the queen and 5 frames of bees. Go back in 8 days and make the nucs , being careful that each one has a couple queen cells, and arrange per Rusty’s advise. Also you can put the 5 frames into any hive you have that will hold them. I have a couple 8 frame houses I use till they need room and the rest were placed in 10 frame gear and it worked fine. I agree with Rusty KISS.
I would never split a 2 deep and 2 medium, late summer, I would make it bigger and split it in the spring. Thanks for your time to read this.
Great article! I like that you said, “look for eggs”. So many other beekeepers say to look for day old larva and that can be really hard for a new beekeeper. A couple of years ago, I made some splits but didn’t really know what I was looking for… I wish someone would have said “eggs” and not “larva”. I’m making a split today and this was excellent advice.
Thanks. It’s too hard to estimate the age of a larva, especially just after emergence. I figure it’s better to have them too young, than too old. They will be old enough, soon enough.
Hey Rusty, fantastic article! I too like the KISS method. I have been reading lot’s of articles and watching youtube vids for splitting hives, nobody said anything about the “walkaway split”! All of them make it complicated, shaking off all bees, using queen excluder, etc. I had thought to myself that I should be able to just do what you describe, but no one else even mentioned it so I figured there must be a reason why, then I found your article and it makes total sense! My first ever hive is a double deep and is now overflowing with bees so I want to split it b4 they swarm. Thanks!
What’s a a good time of the day and the worst?
I think it’s easiest to split when the foragers are out—less conjection. They will return to the parent hive regardless of where they are when you split. That said, it probably doesn’t matter.
Rusty, I did a walk away split on my crowded hive 3 days ago. The next day there seemed to be nobody home in one hive, but the next day, both hives were crazy with bees coming and going. Is this normal behavior, or is something going wrong? When do I check for a queen cell, or should I leave it for a month and check for eggs? Just don’t want laying workers. My first time doing a split so I’m pretty nervous.
The first day of a split all the foragers return to the original hive and the new hive is left with just nurse bees (which don’t fly around). After a day or so, some of the nurses become foragers and then you will see them. Completely normal.
See “When will a newly hatched queen begin to lay for timing issues. It depends on whether you are starting with eggs, young larvae, queen cells, virgin queens, etc.
Can you do an artificial swarm in the same apiary as the parent hive? I would like to split one of my colonies via artificial swarm but do not have an outyard at the moment and have been told by other beekeepers that it won’t work in the same yard. Do you have any input? Also, can I take a frame with swarm cells on it and use that to requeen a floundering hive if I remove the queen for a day or two? Thanks for any information you can provide, I really enjoy your articles!
Of course you can do a split in the same apiary. Have you read my section on splits? That explains the basics and then gives lots of options. I don’t use the term “artificial swarm” because down through history the term was used to mean different things, so it’s confusing. But in a sense all splits are variations on the idea of an artificial swarm.
I don’t know why someone (probably a second-year beekeeper) would say it doesn’t work in the same apiary. As long as you remember that all foragers will return to their original hive location, you’ve got it covered. No surprises.
Yes, you can use swarm cells for requeening. You don’t have to remove the queen in advance, you can do it when you add the cells.
Also, can open, uncapped queen cells be used to requeen a queenless hive or should they be capped before transferring them to the queenless hive? Thanks again!
You can use uncapped queen cells but they are very delicate and must be handled gently—no shaking, jarring, chilling, or drying allowed.
Thank you! Yes, now, I have read your section on splits :). I am going to try and use this swarming tendency to my advantage. One colony will get requeened and another will be started from a split. I plan to use the “crop and chop” method to split from a Langstroth into a top-bar hive. Have you ever attempted this? Any pointers? Thanks
Would you suggest going back to check on a walk-away split after a week to determine which hive was queen-right and if the queenless hive has begun creating queen cells or is it better to leave the hive and not open it back up until about the fourth week?
You can do it either way. My preference is to leave them alone, but if you need time to perhaps order a queen, then there is no harm in looking.
Thank you for the input. I think I prefer letting them alone for a few weeks to allow them time to do their magic without me getting in the way 🙂
I am in NorCal, how late in the season would you consider a split?
I am thinking of two scenarios:
1. Just a walk-away split as you describe above
2. I have raised a few queen cells via cloake that I can add to a split
It seems like things are slowing down now (mid-July), do you think they will have time to build up enough to make it through winter?
How much they can build up will depend on available forage. If it appears they are running short, you can feed them.
Thanks so much for all this information, Rusty! I had a hive that was busting at the seams but not showing signs of swarming. I had an empty hive box sitting right next door, so I did a walk-away split and checked on it just this past weekend (five weeks later). It worked! We found tons of eggs, young larvae, and even a good number of capped larvae. We found and marked the new queen. It was pretty amazing to see the hive do what it was supposed to do – and now I have two working hives. I’m feeding both (including pollen patties) to help them get ready for winter as especially in the newly-queened hive the stores look pretty low. This has been a great experience and we are stoked! Thanks!
That is great news! Way to go!
Awesome information, thank you! I’ve got drones and warm weather and I’m making my very first split next weekend! I’m using the KISS “set the brood box with the queen six inches to the right on a new base” method. Both of my brood boxes are pretty full right now (though there are no signs of swarm cells yet – I will check on that again next weekend during the great split party). My question is: Once I’ve split my two brood boxes, should I give each of them a second box on top immediately? Or give the queenless hive a few weeks to make a new queen before I give them more real estate?
It’s my custom to wait before adding more space, only because it’s worked well for me in the past. But I wouldn’t say it’s necessary. I do it more by feel. (I know. That’s not very helpful!)
Ha – No, it’s both helpful to know what’s worked for you, and helpful to be reminded that there’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Thanks for the reply!
(It’s almost like bees could survive without us to manage them… gasp!)
1) If a walk-away split is made and due to circumstances remains in the same bee yard, should the split be checked in a few days just to make sure that it has enough nurse bees and I didn’t inadvertently transfer too many foragers that may have returned to the parent hive? (Temps are still in the 50s here at night.)
2) If the hive positions were not switched the day the split was made, should it be done on a subsequent day? And if so, will forager bees really return to the old location even if that was a four stack of mediums and the split was a nuc? They don’t use hive size as part of their cue?
It’s a good idea to check a new split to make sure it has enough nurse bees. Too much movement of the hive bodies is not advantageous at this point. And, no, the size of the hive is not important, just the location.
Oops My last message should’ve said the temperatures are still in the 40s at night not the 50s!
First year beekeeping, just one hive.
I tried my first split on my own this year. I’m in the California Delta and temperatures are warming up and I have adult drones in 2 hives so I figured I would try the walk-away split now to head off swarming. How long should I give them to develop a queen cell before I accept I may have done something wrong :-}?
I checked after 3 days and see something that could either be a queen cell or drone cell…it’s hard to tell at this stage. Also, if I need to add bees, can I just shake more bees into the split from the other hives? I’ve found differing opinions on the internet (go figure!) as to whether or not adding adult bees will cause fighting. Thanks for your advice, I love your website!
Does your split contain eggs that the bees can use to make a queen? If it’s short on eggs, add some more or some very young larvae.
As far as adding adult bees, no problem. Bees drift quite a bit naturally, going home to different hives than the one they left. I freely add bees when I need to and never had a problem.
Thanks Rusty! Yes, I neglected to say the 2 frames of brood I started with had eggs, very young and older larvae, and capped brood. As I said, I checked after 3 days and was unsure if the cell with a larvae in it was a queen or drone cell. Planning on checking again after another 3 days. I should be able to tell by then.
I’m new to beekeeping, just entering my first summer with my prolific bees. I have 1 hive which is now set up with 2 national supers and 2 national brood boxes. The brood boxes have BIAS, stores, and pollen and the supers are both more or less full but not capped. On our last inspection we saw the queen, no queen cells, plenty of drone brood and drones.
As everything is so busy and full I am thinking of doing a walkaway split as you describe above. Even if there are no queen cells can I still take the brood box with the queen in and move a couple of feet and set up on a stand with a super on top leaving the queenless brood box on the original site with the other super to hopefully raise a new queen?
Would you add another brood box on top of the queenright brood box as it is jam-packed full of bees with not a lot of room for the queen to lay in?
Do I need to do anything else, it sounds too easy? ??
The most important issue is the age of the brood in the original hive. Since you will be moving the queen, no new eggs will be laid, so you must make sure there are eggs or extremely young larvae in the original hive so the workers can raise a good queen.
You can certainly add a second brood box on the new hive, but it will not be jam-packed after you do the split. Any workers who have already begun to fly will fly back to the original hive. The only ones that remain will be workers and nurse bees that haven’t yet begun to fly. It will take a day or so before things begin looking normal. Maybe just wait a day or two before adding the brood box, just so it’s easier to see what’s going on.
Thanks Rusty, it’s nice to have a plan of action sorted in your mind ?
Is it worth checking the queenless side of the split after a week to make sure that there are new queen cells? If there are none I can take another egg frame from the queen right side of the split and move it over. That way I only lose a week, not a month. Or am I missing something fundamental?
Yes on both. Check to see if queen cells have been built and, if not, add more eggs.